BRATTLEBORO — From the time that area children woke up to baskets full of bunny-shaped chocolates to the day when people visited cemeteries to honor those who lost their lives while fighting for this country, the Leland & Gray varsity baseball team has been on fire.
The Rebels, who went a perfect 11-0 in May and are 13-2 overall, were given the No. 1 seed in the Division 3 Tournament on Sunday. They will host No. 16 Montpelier (3-13) in today's playdown game at 4:30 p.m.
Freshman hurler Casper Rowe had a huge day for the Townshend team in a recent victory over Twin Valley, striking out five batters on his way to the win and helping his cause by driving in a pair of runs. Joel Emmons led the Rebels with a couple of hits in that one and center fielder Jeremy Bovat showed off his rifle arm on a play at the plate.
"The kid is consistent," said Leland & Gray skipper Eric Durocher of Rowe. "He changes speed and he changes eye level."
Rounding out the top five seeds in the D-3 Tournament are: No. 2 Peoples Academy (12-4), No. 3 Randolph (11-5), No. 4 Enosburg Falls (11-5) and No. 5 Windsor (8-8). Twin Valley (7-9), which is seeded 10th, will open up at No. 7 Williamstown (11-5) today at 4:30 p.m.
The Wildcats will ride the arms of Joey Rafus and Kyle Murdock, who have 38 and 36 strikeouts respectively. Justin Hicks has scored a team-high 27 runs, Baylee Crawford is batting a team-best .410, catcher Chris Robinson has been strong behind the plate and Brett Swanson is a solid defender in the outfield.
In the Division 1 baseball bracket, No. 6 Brattleboro (13-3) and the loaded pitching staff that consists of Leif Bigelow, Sam Ognenoff and Ben Betz will welcome 11th-ranked Hartford (9-7) today at 4:30 p.m. Sixth-seeded Bellows Falls (8-8) will play host to No. 11 Springfield (6-10) in a Division 2 playdown game today at 4:30 p.m.
"Our pitching has been good enough to win. If we would just play solid defensively," said BF skipper Bob Lockerby. "Scoring runs has not been easy, but we are capable of putting runs on the board. It comes down to showing up and playing a smart game."
All four area softball teams will also begin the postseason today at 4:30 p.m. Fourth-ranked Leland & Gray (13-3) will host No. 13 Twin Valley (1-15) in D-3, No. 6 Brattleboro (12-4) will welcome 11th-seeded South Burlington (5-11) in D-1, and No. 15 Bellows Falls (4-12) will visit second-seeded Lyndon (13-2) in a D-2 showdown.
The Rebels swept the Wildcats this season, including a one-hit shutout from hard-throwing southpaw Keltsey Rushton in Thursday's 19-0 rout. Jordan Gouger and Mackenzie Boyle each had a couple of hits for the winners in that one.
The Colonels have veteran pitcher Hannah Wilson, who has continually helped herself by belting extra-base hits. Freshman Lauren Mckenney has blasted a couple of grand slams this season, while catcher Jamie Mahoney, center fielder Devin Millerick, shortstop Hailey Derosia and third baseman Jocelyn Aither have been solid defensively.
Bellows Falls will be attempting to rebound from a 9-0 loss to Fair Haven at the end of the regular season. Emily Stoddard and Aly Bashaw had the lone hits for the Terriers in that contest.